May 23, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
There is no doubt UKIP has had a great night at the local council elections. There is no surprise that Nigel Farage, the leader, has tried to capitalize on this by arguing that his party will be “serious players” at the 2015 general election, in with a chance of securing representation in the House of Commons for the first time.
Now it so happens that it is true that there is a possibility that UKIP may get a seat at the House of Commons for the first time next year. But the local council election results are not the reason we can be sure of that. The fact is that Farage and UKIP strategists are frantically searching around the UK for a seat that he has the most chance of winning, because with our election system for the General election, he will need to get it just right.
Farage is probably right therefore that UKIP will be a serious player in the next election. However, it will most likely be in just one seat – and the other candidates in whichever seat he chooses will definitely be worried about him. Until Farage can feel comfortable with others in the party to let them loose on Question Time, Have I got News for You, Daily Politics etc and to get exposure in the press I’m not sure anyone else in the party could be considered that serious a player at the next election.
To understand why you have to look at the context of these local elections. Most people don’t really understand what Local Councillors do, and how their work affects them. So they will tend to be comfortable with using their vote as a protest vote – because it doesn’t mean they’ll get a different Prime Minister. The local council elections do use the same voting system (first-past-the-post) but the result is different. So you can’t read too much into the results in terms of whether success there means success next year.
If, by December of this year – the average punter in the electorate can name ten UKIP politicians – THEN they might be serious. But at the moment, whilst it is great for them that they have this foothold on executive power (and their actions will be watched VERY closely) – they should concentrate on proving themselves adept at doing that job, and if they can do then we might see them do a lot better than we think next May.